March 7, 2019

How to survive in a world of complexity

In this article, we share 6 tips and approaches you can implement today in order to survive in this new, complex business world.

Our world is getting more complex by the day. Technology is advancing at a speed that even scares some of us. The volume and speed of communication are exploding: human to human, human to machine, machine to machine. Consumers have massively changed their preferences. What was true yesterday doesn’t work today anymore. We now live in a new world with new rules.

In order to survive in this new complex world, I asked the members of our Lab to share their tips to navigate in this complexity. These tips are very simple truths. Once you commit to them, it will bring a real change. These simple truths are easily explained but they need a lot of energy and mental investment. I hope these tips will not only inspire you but bring you into action.

Stop selling, start listening

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” -Ernest Hemingway

The world is changing, therefore the products we offer to our customers also need to change. For this change to happen we should stop focusing all our energy on selling and start listening. So take a break, get out into the field and talk with your customers. See how they use your product in their daily life. Discover how they use your product in combination with other products. The insights you will collect will help you shape new products as an answer to the new problems of a new world.

The feedback you collect by listening to your customers will also help you when you focus on selling again. Instead of just selling a product, you will be able to show to your customers how your product fits in their daily life and how it fixes some of their pains.

It takes a different person to fix a problem

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” ― Albert Einstein

New worlds need new people and new ways of thinking. We have to admit that changing your mindset is a difficult process. Very often, bringing additional brainpower in a changing world helps accelerate a change of mindset. What does this mean practically? Who’s the right person you need to bring in? We believe that people who speak another language than yours, people who don’t come from the same background are a useful resource. They will help you to avoid using the same thinking than what was used to create the problems in the first place.

Lean first, Agile second

“Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer; anything else is waste.” ―Eric Ries

For different phases of projects, you need different methods. Relying on one method to fix every problem and every challenge is like using a hammer both for putting a nail in a wall and drawing a sketch. Of course, it might work but there will be some damages in the process.

A lean approach helps reduce risk and waste. Lean is a perfect methodology to bring products to a market fit. Once you get to this market fit though, you need another methodology. That’s when agile comes into play. The agile methodology will help you scale your business once you have reduced the uncertainty.

Stop going to conferences

“A conference is a gathering of people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.” — Fred Allen

We believe that the time for real strategic conversation as come. We need to stop and look at the real problems. We need to take the time to create models of the problems, observe what happens and not try to simplify our world view. We need to bring back complexity.

Innovation doesn’t happen by following a conference. Innovation starts when you learn the tools and methods. It starts when you train these methods again and again until you get a strategic stack.

Multi silo is not multidisciplinary

“If you skillfully follow the multidisciplinary path, you will never wish to come back. It would be like cutting off your hands.” — Charlie Munger

There is a common misconception in the corporate world. Many businesses believe that they are working in a multidisciplinary way. But more than often they are only working in a multi silo approach. But what’s the difference? Multi silo is bringing people from every department together. Each one defends their little piece of the cake. Each team member gives their recommendation and tries to protect their own area of expertise and power. Multidisciplinary work is not exchange, it’s symbiosis. What one discipline does deeply impacts another discipline. The impact can be so deep that in the end, we don’t recognize which discipline is leading anymore. This is truly multidisciplinary work.

Try to think. Are you just bringing departments together or are you really mashing them up?

As a leader, you need legitimacy

“Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision.” — Henry Kissinger

Today, the corporate world often mixes up leadership with authority. In the example of a general leading an assault, the authoritarian general has soldiers following him because they are scared to die. A general with leadership gets soldiers to follow him because they see the big picture and they know that if they die, it will be for the greater good.

As a leader, you will never succeed as long as you are not seen as legitimate by your team. But how do you create this legitimacy? In his book Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell offers an interesting answer:

“…legitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice — that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.”


Optimizing your business is wonderful. But let’s not forget this: there’s a graveyard full of companies and institutions that have self-optimized themselves to the death. In a world where everything is changing, optimizing isn’t enough. You need to start evolving, you need to start changing your mindset and attitude.

The 6 principles we shared in this article will bring value only once you start practising them over and over. Closing your browser to continue reading your emails is not the next action we recommend. Take a break. And try to decide which of the six you want to experience first.

This article has been posted by Olivier Kennedy
on March 7, 2019
in #Other
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